Why unions are "Astroturfing" health-care town halls

After enraged constituents started showing up at Congressional town-hall forums to oppose ObamaCare, the unions acted quickly to counterdemonstrate on behalf of the Democratic agenda item.  In at least one case, union representatives used violence to intimidate and harrass ObamaCare opponents.  The same union, which represents a large percentage of government workers and would be presumably immune from any health-care reform action, issued memos demanding volunteers to “drown out” opposition to ObamaCare. But why?

This report from the Detroit Free Press explains that the unions have a good reason — actually, ten billion good reasons:

Antilabor forces say it’s welfare for the UAW and Democrats’ union allies. Labor supporters say it falls short of what’s needed as tens of thousands of union members are pushed into early retirement as employers cut back health care coverage.

They’re both talking about a $10-billion provision tucked deep inside thousands of pages of health care overhaul bills that could help the UAW’s retiree health-care plan and other union-backed plans.

It would see the government — at least temporarily — pay 80 cents on the dollar to corporate and union insurance plans for claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees age 55 to 64. …

Greg Mourad of the National Right to Work Committee called it “a shameless case of political payback,” saying Democrats and President Barack Obama are trying “to force the rest of us to pay billions to cover those unions’ health care.”

The money will be yet another bailout of Detroit, although the Obama administration and the Democrats have it flying under the radar, buried in HR3200:

Thanks to Detroit’s twin auto bankruptcies and other concessions, the UAW’s voluntary employee benefit association, or VEBA, had to take stock of unknown value for $24 billion in claims, while adding thousands of early retirees to its rolls.

Outside experts estimate the funds have about 30 cents in cash for every dollar of future claims, with no guarantee of what its stock assets will be worth. Lance Wallach, a New York-based VEBA expert, says if the funds “don’t get something, they’re out of business in 12 years.” …

Key provisions in House and Senate proposals set aside $10 billion to pay some claims for early retirees covered by employers and VEBAs, before other cost-saving measures kick in. Critics call it a union giveaway, but the union says the money would keep companies from further slashing coverage.

That’s explicitly a bailout.  It comes on the heels of tens of billions of dollars committed to GM and Chrysler, as well as politically-motivated bankruptcies that violated the rights of senior creditors in favor of the unions.  The unions have overcommitted and underresourced their health plans, and now Congress wants to surreptitiously bail them out from bankruptcy — all while making them more or less immune from the restrictions in the rest of the bill.

That $10,000,000,000 bailout certainly gives the unions a big incentive to crack heads and intimidate people into retreat on ObamaCare, doesn’t it?  That’s the granddaddy of all Astroturfing efforts.

Update: My friend Warner Todd Huston wrote about this almost two weeks ago — be sure to read it.